Upon stepping foot on my first professional film acting gig I was a giant ball of nervousness. My role in this production was quite small. I was what is called a day player, which means my character was only seen in a single scene, and while I had several lines I wouldn't be needed for more than a single day of filming. After running through my lines with the actors, and getting prepped at the hair/makeup trailer and wardrobe came the time to rehearse on set.
While I knew the director from his previous works, I was baffled by the sheer number of crew members. My eyes skimmed the room and noted a variety of faces whose curves were marked with stress and worry; except for one. He was standing by the camera reviewing its placement, and he had the most pleasant disposition about him. After rehearsing the scene, I felt brave enough to approach him to ask his title. He was the director of photography, and while I was vaguely familiar with his duty on set he took the time to further delve into what his profession is and his specific role on the film set.
The director of photography, also known as the DP, is one of the most important members of the directing unit, and as an actor you should understand how his hands shape the final product of a film.
In the most foundational basis, the director of photography is responsible for overseeing the production of all moving pictures within a film. While his responsibilities may sound similar to those of the cinematographer or the director, they couldn't be more different.
The director of photography spends a significant amount of time talking with the cinematographer and director in order to obtain their visual desire of the film, and then decides what filming equipment and labs to use in order to best capture their vision of a film.
Not only does he select the actual equipment, but he also has a direct role in selecting other professionals who will work in directing unit, such as the camera operator, camera assistants and other minor crew members.
In order for a film to be successful, the movie director and the director of photography must work hand-in-hand as their roles in a production directly shape the final product. Thus, as an actor you should take your notes not only from the director, but also from the director of photography as these professionals are technically one-in-the-same.